35@35 #16: Consequences

A road leads deep into a  Kansas cornfield in late July.TC’s Principles and Guidelines for Life #16: “Bad choices do not lead to good places.” One thing I don't see Jesus doing in the writings of his followers is trying to force people to make better choices in life.

For instance, there's the guy who Matthew tells us about in his writings. He gets the title of 'Rich Young Ruler' in most instances.

And Richie (I'm going to go ahead and give him that nickname) asks Jesus what he has to do to have eternal life. After a short conversation, Richie decides he values his possessions more than his relationship with God.

You know what? I'll let Matthew tell his own story:

Now someone came up to him [Jesus] and said, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to gain eternal life?” He said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he asked. Jesus replied, “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “I have wholeheartedly obeyed all these laws. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But when the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he was very rich. (Matthew 19:16-22)

Notice what Jesus does here: lets him walk away.

Doesn't run after him. Doesn't try to sugar coat some issues that Richie needs to deal with. Doesn't lower his standards to accommodate this dude. He lets him walk.

See, one of Jesus' later followers tells us that "...a person will reap what he sows..." (Galatians 6:7)

In other words, if I plant corn seed, later on I'm going to be eating corn. And if I live selfishly, I'm going to get the results of a selfish life down the road.

This is true whether or not you're a follower of Jesus.

If following Jesus meant that I could avoid the consequences for my dumb, selfish actions, I bet everybody would follow Jesus.

It doesn't. If I, as a follower of Jesus, make bad choices, I'm going to have to deal with the consequences.

God will forgive me when I ask for forgiveness, but he's usually going to leave the consequences for me to deal with.

This doesn't even have to involve sin.

My wife and I bought a business several years ago. We didn't do enough research on what we needed to know. When that business failed, it left us with a lot of financial burden. We're still dealing with it today.

God didn't give me a winning lottery ticket. I didn't get a call one day that my debt had been paid in full.

We ran a business unsuccessfully, and we have to deal with the consequences.

That was an inexperienced, unwise choice.

When we make truly bad choices - why should it be any different?

Consequences help us learn.

So if you are in a situation where you are constantly dealing with difficult circumstances, start planting different crops.

Plant grace and mercy and forgiveness instead of anger, frustration or resentment.

And then be patient. What kind of foolish farmer would plant seed on Monday, then give up on his crop that Wednesday?

We sow what we reap, and bad choices lead to bad places.



35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.


When Wishes Come True

There's an old Chinese Curse that goes like this: "May you get what you wish for." You read that right. It's a curse. Not a blessing. Not a proverb. A curse.

The idea is that none of us really knows what we want in life. The things that we think would make us happy will just make us miserable.

I spent the last several years asking (begging) God for the opportunity to work at a job that would be in line with my passion in life: strengthening and expanding the kingdom of God. I am also passionate about developing critical thinking in others.

God gave me two positions at almost exactly the same time: adjunct professor and executive pastor.

I couldn't be more excited. I also couldn't be more busy! These are my dream jobs, and now I feel like I have been taken out of the desert and made to drink from a fire hose.

You know that Christian cliche about how 'if you're not asking God for something so big that without His help, you'll fail', then your prayer isn't big enough? Well, my prayer was big enough.

Here's the thing: I wasn't looking for a particular position that was easy. I wanted one that was worth it. I know I have that now. So I'm willing to fight and struggle to learn what I need to know in order to advance God's kindgom from the position he has placed me.

I also know that being so busy is a great way to forget about God altogether. So I am most fearful, not of failure, but of taking on this great challenge on my own.

I am honored that God has given me something so big, and now, I can't wait to see what God wants to do in me and through me after giving me everything I wished for!

The Story

I’ve been thinking lately how much our lives are like a story. Stories, at least the good ones, take time to tell. They unfold, pieces at a time.

I read The Hunger Games a little over a week ago. I enjoyed it. I thought it was a well written book that told an interesting story.

The first page didn’t explain anything about the hunger games themselves. It didn’t clearly explain how we were looking at a nation that had arisen from the ashes of America in a dystopian future.

You learned or gleaned these pieces of understanding along the way. It felt like walking into a house that you’ve never visited before with many doors. Each one held a room full of details; some interesting, some bland.

I often want God to give me answers, or to make clear my future path and plans…but what he wants to do is let the story unfold. It’s a rich story with depth, not a book of quick answers and little left to wonder about.

The Bible itself isn’t a text book, it’s a grand narrative about God and the flawed people he loves.

In books, I never skip ahead to see what’s going to happen. It means less when you don’t know what it takes to get there. But in life, I’m constantly whining about wanting to know how it will all turn out. I think this would steal away from experience, the journey. And I think that life consists not of where we are, but how we got there.

Sometimes the story of our lives wanders and meanders, but that’s what gives it depth and breadth. The best stories take time to tell, and I want my life to be a great story.

Salvation: An Ongoing Process

Recently, I read the portion of scripture below: “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:9-11 emphasis mine)

We tend to focus on the death of Jesus. He died for our sins. Then we celebrate Easter and shortly after that, he goes directly to heaven. Are we forgetting that Jesus didn’t just die for us, but that he also lived for us?

His sacrifice wiped the slate clean, restored us to zero when we had been at negative one zillion. But the goal isn’t to stay at zero. It’s to start counting up. To build on the second chance, to seize the opportunity.

Accepting Jesus’ sacrifice isn’t the finish line we often treat it as being: “Accept Jesus and you’ll end up in heaven”. It’s a beginning.

When God found you, you were laying in a roadside ditch - crippled and unable to help yourself. He picked you up and healed your legs. The worst thing you can do now is sit back down and wait for the end of your life. It’s time to start using the legs he healed. To go on the journey that he’s been calling you toward all along.

That journey is about restoring this world, not escaping it. To be part of his movement to make all things new. To bring light to the darkness, hope to the despairing, freedom to captives.

If you’ve accepted Jesus death as payment for your sins, then I want to say ‘Congratulations, welcome to the family. We’ve got a lot of work to do, so roll up your sleeves and let’s get busy.’

Dying and Christianity

Jesus gives us some tough things to wrestle with sometimes. You want to be first? Make yourself last. (Matthew 20:16)

You want to lead? Start serving. (Mark 10:43)

You want to live? Learn how to die. (Luke 17:33)

I think the main message Jesus gives us in these teachings is that the Kingdom of Heaven, in many ways, functions the opposite of how this world is organized. Makes sense, seeing as how the person currently in charge of this world is the devil. (Ephesians 2:2; John 12:31)

I started wondering how I could tell whether I had died.

Then I recalled what Jesus says in John 12:24: “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.”

The way you can tell if a seed has died is this: there’s a ton of life growing where it used to be. Ever see a field of crops? Full of life, flowing with the wind, reaching high for the sunlight? Well that’s a field where seeds died.

The defining attribute of death in Christianity is the abundance of life.

Remember John 10:10 where Jesus says “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”? Well, look at the life the Holy Spirit has brought to the world. It’s there because Jesus died.

So I think that the way to tell if a Christian has died to themselves is when you see “life more abundant” in the place where it used to be just them. Is the Holy Spirit bringing joy and peace and love and patience? That’s because the anger and depression and hate and frustration that used to be all you had is gone. Because the old you died.

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:43, talks about being planted in weakness, but raised in power. He’s talking about our current bodies versus our resurrection bodies, but I think it also applies to when we leave behind our carnal lives and instead allow the Holy Spirit to flow in us and through us.

Jesus, in his death, assured the defeat of Satan. In mine, I can be a part of his Kingdom expansion. Where there was once just me, soon there will be an abundance of life.